Sauripuri city was located in Bharatkhsetra and situated on the southern end of Jambudweep. The city was ruled by King Samudravijay who was a descendent of Harivansh dynasty. His queen was Shivadevi. Once, at the fag end of night, Queen Shivadevi saw 14 auspicious dreams. And at that time, on the 12th day of the Krishna Paksha of Kartika month, the soul of Shankhkumar, after completing lifespan in Aparajit Devlok, took birth in the womb of Shivadevi. In due course, on the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha of Shravana month, Shivadevi gave birth to a dusky prince who bore the auspicious symbol of a Shankh (i.e. a conch). At that very moment, fifty six Dikkumari (type of celestial women) and sixty four Indra celebrated the birth of Tirthankar in their abodes and at the top of Meru mountain respectively. King Samudravijay also felt a wave of happiness on learning about the arrival of the prince and began celebrating this occasion. He also ordered to free the prisoners lodged in the country’s jail and distributed alms among the poor and needy people in the morning.
When the Lord was in womb, Shivadevi had seen “Rishta” gems positioned in a circular periphery and in accordance with this dream, the little prince was named “Arishtanemi”. Following orders from Indra, Apsaras (a type of celestial women) residing in the heavens started looking after the child and other celestial beings took the form of children of similar age and came down to play with him.
Once, King Samudravijay went to a garden with his friends and family for recreation. On seeing the child prince Nemkumar in the garden, Saudharma Indra (Indra of the first heaven) told other celestial beings with great zeal, “In this world, King Samudravijay is the most blessed soul because he has been fortunate to have Lord Neminath as his son. Even though Lord Neminath is still a child, his strength is unmatched, seldom to be found in any other man, celestial beings or Rakshas (demon). If one were to put the strength of Lord Neminath on one side of the scale and the strength of everyone else in these three worlds on the other side, it still would be a futile comparison, similar to the likes of comparing Mount Meru with a sesame seed.” Hearing so much praise from Saudharma Dev, a few of the celestial beings could not digest the fact that a small child like Nemkumar could be so powerful and in order to test his strength, they came to the garden where he was playing in his cradle. When no one was around, like thieves, they kidnapped him from the cradle and went to the sky. When they had travelled for about 1.25 lakh Yojan (a metric for distance), the Lord, using his Avadhi Gyaan, learnt about the evil intention of those celestial beings. Immediately, Lord Neminath displayed merely an ounce of his strength, but it was so powerful that those celestial beings fell to the ground in such a way that the impact pushed them 100 Yojans inside the earth. Lord Indra, after seeing all this, came to the place where Lord Neminath was there and asked for his forgiveness on behalf of those celestial beings and after putting the Lord back to his position in cradle, took them back to the heaven,. Silently seeing all the action unfolding before them, King Samudravijay and others were left bewildered with the child’s strength and everyone started dancing with joy. The celestial beings too, after celebrating in the temple of the Lord, went back to their respective places remembering the name of the Lord. Since then, Lord Neminath was protected by crores of celestial beings and he began growing up.
With the passage of time, Lord Neminath reached youth. He was 10 Dhanush (a metric for height) tall. Once, Indra, while praising Lord Neminath for his unparalleled strength said, “There is no one in this universe of three worlds who can even remotely match Lord Neminath in fortitude, valour, strength, generosity, charm and virtues.” Hearing this, some evil celestial beings, in order to falsify the words of Lord Indra, came down near Raivatachal Mountain and established a city by the name Surdhar and started living there. From there, they travelled to Dwarka and began tyrannizing the people there. People were terrified and this led to turmoil in the city. Upon learning this, an infuriated Anadhrushti waged war with those evil celestial beings. However, those celestial using their illusory powers easily defeated Aandhrushti. Thereafter, Krishna and Balram followed him in the war. The evil beings defeated them too using their powers. At that time, the wives of Shri Krishna sneered at Lord Neminath and said that “O Arishtanemi! We have heard that the omniscient supreme beings possess infinite courage. You too have been born in our family as an Arhat (one who is bound to become a Tirthankar). Then, show your limitless and unrestrained valour at a time when your brothers are ruthlessly being defeated in the war.” Hearing these words of sarcasm, Lord Neminath set out on war with those evil celestial beings who had defeated his brothers. At that time, following the orders of Indra, a charioteer named Matli came there with the finest of his chariots. Lord Neminath climbed up the chariot and instantly reached that illusory city where the war was being fought. He then blew a conch shell, thereby inviting all his enemies. Those evil celestial beings too came there and conjured up some frightening faces. Neminath smirked on seeing this and within no time, prepared the strings of the bow. He then took out the undefeatable and fear-evoking Vayavya weapon and loaded it on the bow and after pulling the string of the bow as far back as his ears, unleashed the Vayavya weapon. The thrust of the bow created such wind that the planes (vehicles) of the evil celestial beings were strewn away all over the cosmos just like a cotton ball in air. They crashed into each other due to impact of the wind and this led to a showering of fireballs, similar to that of the clouds of the dooms day. After that, Lord Neminath released another weapon called Mohana-astra. This rendered all the evil celestial beings unconscious and they began wobbling on the ground unconsciously. Seeing this carnage being unleased, Saudharma Indra came down and started praising Lord Neminath. Hearing the prayer of Indra, Lord Neminath pulled back both his weapons which made all the evil celestial beings regain their consciousness. Ashamed of their act, they came near the Lord and begged for his forgiveness and fell down at His feet. Lord Neminath, then hugged Krishna, Balram and Aandhrishti in that illusory city and was filled with joy. Indra said to the Lord, “O Lord! Please uplift us by undertaking a pilgrimage of Shatrunjay and allowing us to join,” Neminath agreed to this, and with great happiness, Indra and other celestial beings went on a pilgrimage to Shatrunjay with Lord Neminath. When they reachied there, Lord Neminath sung the glory of Shatrujay Tirth. Thereafter, along with Indra, he turned towards Girnar. There too, he explained the unprecedented glory of Girnar and did Bhakti of the Tirth. Thereafter, Indra left Lord Neminath at Dwarka and went back to heaven. Lord Neminath, who was ever involved in showering happiness on this world, and who was being taken care of by numerous celestial beings, Krishna and Balram, began spending his time in great comfort and peace.
One fine day, when Lord Neminath was out for recreation, upon persuasion from his friends, he went to the armoury of Shri Krishna despite his own lack of interest. There, he started playing with Shri Krishna’s weapons. He took Krishna’s chakra and swivelled it like a wheel of potter. He lifted a very heavy Koumudiki mace (Gada) and snapped as if it was a twig of wood. After this, he blew the ‘Panch-janya” conch shell of Shri Krishna and the sound created was so intense that it seemed as if the elephants of the three worlds had broken away from their sheds and were running helter-skelter out of fear, as if the horses had surmounted the barriers and gone berserk and as if the entire city had gone deaf with the high pitched shriek of the conch shell. Upon hearing this sound, Krishna thought that some enemy had woken up and went straight to his armoury to figure out for himself who had blown the conch shell. He was astonished to see Nemkumar there. And since Nemkumar was mightier than him, fear gripped him that Nemkumar will usurp his kingdom in future. He became anxious and found solace nowhere. Then, in order to determine who was mightier, he took Nemkumar to the fighting arena. There, Lord Neminath told that, “Contests such as rolling on the ground and others do not meet our prestige, so let us rather test our strength by seeing who can bend the others’ arms.” Krishna consented. Firstly, Lord Neminath successfully bent the arms of Shri Krishna as if it was a small twig of a bamboo tree. When Krishna tried to bend the trunk-like strong arms of Neminath, he was unsuccessful. Instead, when Neminath lifted his arms, it made Krishna, who was holding the arms of Neminath swing with it, as if a monkey was hanging down from a tree. Just like a gambler who has lost the plot, Shri Krishna was defeated in this contest. Worried that Neminath will usurp his kingdom in the twinkling of an eye, he asked Balbhadra, “What should we do now?” At that time, a celestial revelation was made from the sky that, “Lord Naminath (the 21st Tirthankar) has proclaimed in the past that Lord Neminath will be the 22nd Tirthankar after him and will renounce the world without getting married..” Hearing this, Krishna felt a little relieved.
To put any remaining doubts to rest, Krishna took Neminath to a lake along with his eight chief queens and Gopis (cowherd girls) for recreation in water. His idea was that if Neminath indeed got married and indulged in the pleasures thereof, his strength would diminish and thereby, he would no longer have to worry about Neminath usurping his kingdom. With this goal in mind, Krishna told the queens that, “Play with him in the water and thrill him such that he agrees to get married soon.” To make this happen, Gopis tried all kinds of things that would excite him. At that time, a celestial announcement was made that, “O dim-witted ones! Not even something as grand as the birth ceremony, in which sixty four Indras had worshipped the Lord by anointing him with water from lakhs of large urns, could deter the Lord. And you think you will be able to excite him with such trivial attempts of yours?” Hearing this, Lord started playing with everyone knowing that it was only appropriate for him to do such. All the eight queens of Krishna did their best to interest Neminath. They showed him the fear of future and coaxed him to marry. Their behaviour smacked of stupidity. This made Neminath gently smile but he did not utter a single word. Taking his silence as a sign of approval (per the law of अनिषीध्धं अनुमतं), everyone believed that Neminath had given his approval for marriage. Overjoyed by this, Krishna mounted Lord Neminath on a majestic elephant and brought him back to Dwarka. Krishna broke the good news to King Samdravijay and Queen Shivadevi that Neminath had agreed to get married. And in excitement, Krishna immediately went to King Ugrasen and asked for the hand of his daughter, Rajimati, for Lord Neminath by saying that Neminath was a much better suitor than himself. Ugrasen was also pleased and said that, “This palace and this wealth are all yours. You don’t have to ask for it.” After that Krishna apprised King Samudravijay of this and called upon the astrologers to decide an auspicious date for the marriage. Astrologers told that, “In monsoon season, no auspicious events are to be done, let alone something of the scale of a wedding.” King Samudravijay replied that, “With great difficulty Krishna has convinced Neminath for marriage, so we must delay it no further. Please find out a suitable date in near future.” The astrologers identified the sixth day of the Shukla Paksha of Shravan month for marriage.
King Samudravijay and Krishna immediately began the wedding preparations. And as the day of wedding approached, festivities in the form of music of Shehnai (a musical instrument popularly used on auspicious occasions) began. Nemkumar was anointed with paste made out of herbs and bedecked with various ornaments. In the morning, he was applied sandalwood paste prepared from the most exquisite sandalwood called Goshirsh Chandan; he was adorned with garland made of white flowers and gems; he wore heavily ornamented clothes and had at his service gentlemen holding umbrellas and wielding Chaamar (a kind of hand fan). Ahead of him were millions of princes and celestial beings, while he himself was seated on a chariot with white horses. Behind him were various kings seated on elephants along with Krishna and Baldev. And along with them were hundreds of people on horses and elephants partaking in the wedding procession. Behind them were the ladies of the palace seated in palanquins. The radiance of their ornaments was illuminating the sky. They were singing auspicious wedding songs. In the front were the Mangal Pathakas (those who sing auspicious religious songs) and prisoners singing praises of the Lord. The sky was reverberating with the sounds of musical instruments. Contemplating on this drama of the material world unfolding before him, Nemkumar proceeded towards the palace of King Ugrasen, along with entire procession.
When the Lord came near the festoons to marry Rajimati, on seeing the grandeur of Lord Neminath, the friends of Rajimati, who was in the terrace of the palace at that time, began praising her luck. At that time, even Rajimati came down to the balcony of the palace along with her friends to have a glimpse of her husband. Bedecked with splendid clothes and ornaments, she was glowing like the goddesses of the heavens. Seeing Nemkumar with her own eyes, Rajimati could not believe her fortune and began thinking that it was only due to a great deal of good merits of the past that she was able to get a husband as virtuous as Lord Neminath. But destiny had something else in store for her. At that very moment, her right eye fluttered which was a foretelling of bad omen. She was scared and informed her mates about it. They too feared something bad would befall upon them. With the hope to thwart the impending bad fortune, they started spitting while chanting “Inauspicious things be gone”. Little did they know why her eye had fluttered? What could the naive spitting attempts do when the fluttering actually signified Rajimati’s liberation?
At the very same time, when Lord Neminath’s chariot proceeded further ahead towards the palace of King Ugrasen amidst great festivities, the mourning and crying of animals that were caged in the nearby buildings was heard. It was as if all the animals had raised their heads and were saying to Lord Neminath in their own language, “O Lord of the three worlds and protector of all living beings! Protect us, protect us.” Moved by the sounds of these animals, Neminath’s heart was filled with compassion for the poor souls. Despite knowing the reason for this mourning through his Avadhi Gyan, he asked the charioteer nonetheless, “What is this sound about?” The charioteer replied, “These animals are meant to be sacrificed for the food that is to be served to the bridegroom’s procession. At the cost of the lives of these poor souls, we are going to enjoy our meal in this wedding.” Lord Neminath was aghast that the wedding would result in the massacre of thousands of innocent and meek animals that were without any shelter. At that time, a couple of deers sincerely prayed to the Lord that, “O Saviour of the poor souls! We are animals. living in the forests, eating grass and drinking water from the stream without interfering in anyone’s life. We have no refuge. We have done nothing wrong in our lives to be sacrificed like this. Protect us, O saviour!” The helplessness and the despondency visible in their eyes touched Lord Neminath. The Lord, who was an embodiment of compassion and an ocean of kindness, immediately asked the charioteer to turn the chariot back and ordered for all the animals to be freed.
Seeing him turn back, King Samudravijay and Shivadevi started weeping and began pleading with the Lord to reconsider his decision. Shivadevi pleaded “O Son! It is my one and only desire to see the face of your wife after marriage. Will you not fulfil this wish of mine?” Samudravijay also requested, “O’ Nemi! Even in the past, Tirthankaras like Lord Rushabh and others have enjoyed the luxuries of married life before they attained liberation. Are you trying to surpass them by remaining a celibate? Please fulfil this small wish of ours.” Even the fifty six crore people in the procession were saddened by this. Krishna and his family also made sincere efforts to have Neminath reconsider his decision. Lord very humbly replied, “The Karma that bounds me in enjoying the luxuries of this world (known as Bhogawali karma) has now been destroyed. Hence, please give up this wish to see me married. If enjoying the company of one lady leads to killing of thousands of animals, asking to pursue such kind of activities that lead to an increase in the cycle of births and death does not suit people like you.” This and other such explanation eventually made them reconcile with the situation. On the other hand, hearing this news of Lord Neminath returning back, Rajimati lost her senses and fell down on the ground, as if she had been struck with a Vajra (the weapon of Indra). Her friends gave her some mediation and when she regained her consciousness, she began weeping inconsolably and spoke with an extremely sorrowful voice, “O Gem of the Yadav clan! O Wise one! O Refuge of the world! O Ocean of compassion! Why are you turning back leaving me distressed, O Lord? If you only wanted to desert me, then why did you even think me worthy of you in the first place?” Hearing this wailing of Rajimati, one of her friends suggested, “We will marry you to another prince who is more worthy of you and loves you more.” Hearing this, Rajimati clasped her hands against her ears and said, “What are you talking about? This doesn’t suit you. Even if sun rises from west, I am not going to marry anyone other than Nemkumar.” Saying this, she turned towards Nemkumar and said, “O’ Affectionate One! You are dearer to me than the soul! You, who have decided to tread on the path of renunciation, fulfil the wishes of askers by giving them even more than what they desire for. What wrong have I done then, O Lord of the Universe, that I don’t even get your hand, your company?” With a sense of detachment from the world, she then made up her mind and decided that, “Let it be that I have not been accepted by the Lord on the occasion of wedding. But, on the occasion of Diksha (renunciation), I will most certainly have the Lord place his hands on my head.” Lord Neminath, who was completely dispassionate about worldly pleasures, but had had come there on the pretext of getting married owing to their affection from previous eight births, returned back as if to hint that it was time for Rajimati’s liberation in this ninth birth.
At that time, nine Lokantik Dev (a type of celestial beings) came to Lord and after bowing down to him, began saying, “O Compassionate Master! O Great Lord! Kindly establish the Tirth.” At that time, Lord Neminath started the Samvatsarik Daan (the distribution of alms for one year) with items that the celestial beings had brought down at the behest of Indra. Lord Neminath gave alms for an entire year to needy and poor people, thus completing his responsibility of Samvatsarik Daan. On completion of one year, Shakarendra and other Indras built for the Lord, a Shibika (palanquin) called Uttarkuru. Neminath ascended that Shibika. The whole city of Dwarka was decorated on this occasion. Indras, celestial beings, Asuras (demons), ten Dasharha, Shri Krishna and other kings, King Samudravijay, Shivadevi and other queens, various princes and princesses and many others were present to participate in the procession of Lord Neminath’s Diksha. Surrounded by them, on the sixth day of the Shukla Paksha of Shravan month (Shravan Sud 6th), Lord Neminath, seated in the palanquin, travelled through the main roads of Dwarka and reached Sahasamra forest on the Girnar Mountain. Stopping the caravan there, Lord Neminath stepped out of his Shibika and took off his ornaments. 300 hundred years after his birth, on the sixth day of the Shukla Paksha of Shravan month, with a vow of fasting for two consecutive days (called Choviyaar Chatth), in the first Prahar (quarter) of the day, when the moon was in the Chitra Nakshatra, Lord Neminath plucked hair from his head in five rounds using his own fists (known as Panch-mushti Loch) and undertook the sacred vow of Diksha along with a thousand other men. Indra took the hair of the Lord and Shakrendra immersed them in Ksheer-Samudra. Indra draped the Lord with Devdushya (a celestial cloth) and then silenced the crowd. In this complete silence, Lord Neminath uttered the Sarva Samayik Sutra that marked the formal acceptance of an ascetic life. At that very moment, Lord attained the fourth type of knowledge known as Mana-Paryav Gyan. At that time, living beings of all the three worlds experienced momentary happiness. After that, Indra and the other kings who had assembled there for the Lord’s renunciation ceremony bowed down to Him and then went back to their respective places.
On the second day of Diksha, Lord Neminath broke his fast and did Parna at Vardatt Brahman’s home. There, the celestial beings conjured up five divine things. After Diksha, Lord lived a strict ascetic life following the Samits and Guptis without any blemishes. He spent 54 days as Chadmasth (i.e. before he got enlightened i.e. attained Keval Gyan) wandering from place to place. He finally arrived in the Sahasamra forest and on the Amavasya of Aaso month (the last day of the Krushna Paksha of Aaso month), during the last Prahar of the day, having undertaken a vow of 3 consecutive fasts (called Attham tap), standing in Kayotsarg Dhyaan (a type of meditation) below the Vaitas tree, when the moon was in Chitra Nakshatra, Lord Neminath ascended the Kshapak Shreni (an inner process of intense purification of soul that inevitably results in the destruction of all the Ghati Karmas) and destroying all his Ghati Karmas attained the unobstructed Keval Gyan and Keval Darshan. Since then on, Lord Neminath has been able to see and know all the states – the past, present and future – of all the Dravyas (the living and non-living entities constituting the universe) of all the three worlds. At that very moment, the thrones of Indras shook and using their Avadhi Gyan, they came to know about the Keval Gyan of Lord Neminath. The celestial beings erected the Samavasaran. The garden keeper informed Shri Krishna about this good news. Shri Krishna, with great enthusiasm and grandeur, went to see and seek the blessings of Lord Neminath. He prayed to the Lord, circum-ambulated him, sang hymns in his honour and then sat at an appropriate place. Others too took their places. Lord Neminath began his Deshna (sermons) which was like nectar to the ears. On listening to this, King Vardatt took Diksha along with two thousand other kings and he became the first of the eighteen Gandhars of Lord Neminath. Princess Yakshini became the first Sadhvi, Nand became the first Shravak (a Jain layperson) and Mahasuvrata became the first Shravika (a Jain laywoman). Goddess Ambika became the Shaasan Devi while Gomedh Yaksha became the Shashan Dev of Lord Neminath. Lord Neminath established the four-fold Sangha and thereby began the Tirth. Shri Krishna asked Lord Neminath the reason for the affection of Rajimati towards the Lord, to which Lord narrated their relationship in the previous nine births.
Then Lord Neminath began wandering and went elsewhere. After sometime, he visited Girnar once again when Rajmati along with many other princesses, and brothers of Lord Neminath along with Rathnemi, took Diksha. Sadhvi Rajimati followed a life of blemish-free conduct and became enlightened and thus the company of Lord Neminath that she had desired for long became eternal. Rajimati spent four hundred years as a lay person in the Sansar, 1 year as Chadmasth and five hundred years as an omniscient and attained Moksha (salvation) even before Lord Neminath.
Wandering in other cities, Lord Neminath established eighteen Ganas (groups of monks) and eighteen Gandhars (the leaders of the groups of monks). They comprised of eighteen thousand virtuous monks such as Vardatt and forty thousand Sadhvis including Arya Yakshini. There were one lakh and sixty nine thousand Shravakas including Nand shravak who followed the twelve vows of Jain lay person. And there were three lakh and thirty six thousand Shravika of the likes of Mahasuvrata. There were four hundred Shrut Kevali who were the knower of the 14 Purvas and had the ability to deliver sermons just like a Tirthanakar. There were fifteen hundred monks with Avadhi Gyan, fifteen hundred monks with the Vaikriya Labdhi (a type of miraculous power), fifteen hundred monks with Keval Gyan, one thousand monks with Vipulmati Mana-paryav Gyan. Sixteen hundred of Lord Neminath’s monks became celestial beings in the Anuttar heaven, while fifteen hundred monks and three thousand Sadhvis went to Moksha. Such was the vast and admirable family of Lord Neminath.
Shri Arishtanemi stayed for three hundred years as a prince. After taking Diksha, he stayed for fifty four days as Chadmasth and 54 days less from 700 years as an omniscient. Thus, having spent seven hundred eyes as an ascetic, when Lord Neminath was on the verge of completing his life span of one thousand years, a significant portion of the fourth era of Avasarpini (the descending time cycle) had elapsed. Knowing that his lifespan was nearing its end, Lord Neminath travelled and came to Raivatgiri (Girnar) where he gave his last Deshna. Thereafter, along with five hundred and thirty six monks, Lord Neminath undertook the Padapogaman Anshan (a type of penance). After completing Anshan of one month, on the midnight of the eighth day of the Shukla Paksha of Ashadh month (Ashadh sud Aatham), when moon was in Chitra Nakshatra, sitting in the Paryankasan posture on the Girnar Mountain, Lord Neminath destroyed all his Karmas through the process of Yog Nirodh, and went to Moksha along with the other five hundred and thirty six monks. At that time, per the customary ritual, Shakrendra ordered Kuber to build a Shibika. Shakrendra performed puja on Lord Neminath’s body and other celestial beings arranged sandalwood logs for the final rites. At the instance of Indra, celestial beings known as Agnikumar lit up the pyre. Other celestial beings known as Vayukumar gave thrust to the flames. Once the funeral rites were completed, the celestial beings doused the fire with water from Ksheer-Sagar. After this Indra took the jaws of Lord, the kings took the clothes and others took the ashes. At this location, the Indras created a temple with Lord Neminath’s idol. From there, the celestial beings went to Nandishwar Dweep (islant) and celebrated an eight day festival called Atthai Mahotsav and then returned back to their respective places.
The time span between Lord Naminath and Lord Neminath was five lakh yeas. And during the time of this celibate 22nd Tirthankar Lord Neminath, the Ninth Vasudev, Baldev and Prati Vasudev also took birth.